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A Tale Of Two Subs: An Untold Story of World War II, Two Sister Ships, and Extraordinary Heroism: An Untold History of World War II Hardcover – 4 Sep 2008

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1st Edition edition (4 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044617839X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446178396
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,618,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A TALE OF TWO SUBS just goes to show you that the SEALs are not the only brave men in dark waters. I am always humbled by the actions of the men who fought before me, and will forever bow my head in respect to the unsung heroes of World War II. This is a must read for any patriot."
"Marcus Luttrell, New York Times Bestselling Author of LONE SURVIVOR"" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The crew of the USS Sailfish couldn't have known that the Japanese aircraft carrier they'd just torpedoed actually had several crew members from their sister sub, sunk just days earlier. This is the extraordinary story of the events that led to this amazing twist of fate.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me say, right away, that I have an inbuilt aversion to books that proclaim to tell an "Untold Story" about any aspect of a war that happened over 65 years ago. Given that every US submarine book I've ever read,over the last 50 years - and that's a lot of books - has told the story of Squalus/Sailfish & Sculpin, I found it difficult to believe that anyone could describe this as "An untold Story" unless they have lived in a cave since 1945. Granted it might sell more copies but unless you have an appetite for a subsidiary level of detail not seen in other books,the author will have nothing new to tell you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x97ae87e0) out of 5 stars 37 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97a0f240) out of 5 stars Scattershot Account of Two Subs at War! 26 Aug. 2008
By Mike O'Connor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The intertwined histories of two USN WWII submarines - USS Sculpin and USS Sailfish - are supposedly the subject of this 2008 book from Grand Central Publishing. I say supposedly because the book is so poorly focused you wonder exactly what's in author Jonathan McCullough's periscope sights.

Sculpin (SS-191) and Sailfish (SS-192) had two tragic connections. In May 1939, SS-192, then named Squalus, sank; Sculpin aided in the rescue of her surviving crew. In November 1943 Sculpin was sunk by Japanese destroyers. Some of her survivors were put on board escort carrier IJN Chuyo to be ferried to Japan. Tragically Chuyo was then sunk by Sailfish/Squalus in December 1943. Only one of 21 Sculpin crewmen survived the sinking of the carrier.

Had McCullough told that story, he would have had a great book on his hands. Unfortunately he runs aground for several reasons. First, he devotes pages and pages of A TALE OF TWO SUBS to USN codebreaking operations in WWII. I don't understand why he introduced this totally unrelated element into the book. There isn't a large enough connection between the codebreaking efforts of Joe Rochefort, Jasper Holmes, etc. and the Sculpin/Sailfish story to justify the verbage. As a result, in reading the book, Sailfish often seems like a bit player in a book supposedly detailing its career! Second, the book's organization seems out-of-whack. Sailfish and Sculpin's first cosmic connection came in 1939 yet McCullough doesn't get to that until p. 182. Third, although both subs attacked Japanese shipping, McCullough doesn't include details of the damage they actually inflicted versus what they claimed; such information is readily available in standard sources on the Silent Service.

Sorry to say, I can't recommend A TALE OF TWO SUBS.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97a0f2b8) out of 5 stars Flawed but ok 23 Jun. 2008
By Matt Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A Tale of Two Subs is a good attempt at historical writing however Mr. McCullough missed the mark on his title. In the title he promises to tie the story of the U.S.S. Sculpin and U.S.S. Sailfish (formerly U.S.S. Squalus). The two submarines are tied by fate and misfortune. In 1939 U.S.S. Squalus sank in a diving test in which 26 men lost their lives but the ship was salvaged and renamed as U.S.S Sailfish. In 1943 the U.S.S. Sculpin is sunk by a Japanese destroyer rescuing 42 men from the Sculpin. Some of the Sculpin crewmembers decided to stay onboard for a variety of reasons. The most important person deciding to stay onboard was Captain John Cromwell. This man and and his friendship with the Navy' top cryptographic officer in the Pacific is the heart of McCullough's book not the submarines as advertised in his title.

It was difficult to understand the topic of the second chapter in relation to the title and supposed focus of the book about submarines since the chapter focused on the code breaking effort before and during the war based on one man. This would be acceptable if the main focus of the book was not on the submarines but rather Jasper Holmes the commanding officer of the code breaking effort. McCullough kept on coming back to Holmes rather than focusing as the title promises two sister ships. The story is compelling but the submarine aspect of the book is secondary rather than primary as the title suggests. McCullough kept switching from the Sculpin to Holmes and often included the Sailfish as an after thought and in reality McCullough only discusses the Sailfish's history briefly and only when the Sailfish was something relevant to Holmes and the Sculpin.

McCullough's writing style made me reminding myself I wasn't grading this book or even editing it. McCullough's short biography states he has experience in editing books which this book needed. McCullough switches from first person to third person often and often uses vernacular in trying to describe facts. For example "We do not know where Lieutenant Commander Connaway or Lieutenant Defrees were at this point, only they did not die in the conning tower. Lieutenant George Brown succeeded to command" (page 243 A Tale of Two Subs). This passage is an example of McCullough not being able to maintain which person he is actually using. In future History classes I will use the passage as an example of how not to write History. On page 121 McCullough writes " The disagreements ignited in what could be called a 1940's flame war..." McCullough is depending that his reader will know what a flame war is when some of his readers might not. It was quite clear that McCullough started out interested in the submarines but found a more compelling story which is interesting.

The book is a good read if the reader isn't reading for any insights into the submarine war in the Pacific or expecting a book about two submarines with compelling stories. McCullough's book held the promise of telling some to be akin to Carl LaVo's Back From The Deep which has covered but never delivered to that promise. It is an interesting book about code breaking which is fascinating but not relating to the title. This book would not be disappointing if it were actually titled with something to do with McCullough's focus.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97a0f75c) out of 5 stars An Exciting Tale of Submarine Warfare 25 July 2008
By Jeffrey T. Munson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Sculpin and Sailfish were two of the U.S. Navy's attack submarines. They, along with the other submarines of the U.S. fleet, were charged with "unrestricted" attacks on all types of Japanese shipping. The submariners carried this task out with cold efficiency. However, in the early days of the war, American submarines were plagued by faulty torpedoes which would "porpoise" or fail to explode upon striking an enemy vessel. Many Japanese ships escaped sure destruction as a result of these inferior weapons.

The Sailfish began its life as the USS Squalis. In the spring of 1939, the Squalis sank during a test dive off the Eastern coast of the United States. Over half of the crew was killed, but some managed to survive the sinking by moving toward the front of the boat, which was undamaged. In a remarkable feat of engineering, these surviving men were rescued from the doomed sub with a diving bell which could be attached to the sub's hull. The Squalis itself was raised from the ocean, repaired and refitted, and re-commissioned as the USS Sailfish. However, many considered the boat to be cursed due to its earlier sinking. Still, the Sailfish began its new service to the Navy.

The USS Sculpin, sister to the Squalis, had been insturmental in assisting with the rescue efforts. Now, the two subs were in service against the Japanese. On November 19, 1943, the Sculpin was attacked by a Japanese destroyer. Forced to surface due to the large amount of damage it received, the commander of the Sculpin decided to fight it out on the surface with the Japanese destroyer while making preparations to scuttle the sub. One of the men who perished aboard the Sculpin was Commander John P. Cromwell, who made the ultimate sacrifice rather than risk being captured and forced to reveal his knowledge that the Americans had broken the Japanese war code. The surviving Americans were taken aboard the Japanese destroyer, which headed for its base on Truk island. Upon reaching Truk, the prisoners were divided into two groups; one group was assigned to the Japanese aircraft carrier Unyo, while the other group was assigned to the carrier Chuyo. One group would live; one wouldn't.

Several days later, the USS Sailfish was patrolling in enemy waters. Acting on secret ULTRA information, the skipper knew that a Japanese convoy was due to pass by. Despite battling high seas and winds, the Sailfish managed to shoot its torpedoes at the enemy ships. Unknown to the crew of the Sailfish, the ship it targeted was the Chuyo, which carried survivors from the Sculpin. The group of survivors from the Unyo would ultimately reach Japan and serve out the remainder of the war as prisoners of the Japanese. These men endured barbaric treatment at the hands of their captors.

This is an exciting story. The lives of these two subs were forever intertwined. It was an unfortunate accident that the Sailfish torpedoed the enemy ship that was carrying survivors from the Sculpin.

I recommend this book highly. The author does a good job of describing the background of these two submarines as well as the code breaking efforts of the men at station HYPO. The book is written in a style that places the reader in the heat of battle. The chapters dealing with the Sculpin's battle with the Japanese destroyer are the best of the book.

Fans of submarine warfare will definitely want to read this book.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97a0f684) out of 5 stars Informative Page-Turner 20 May 2008
By Sundancer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a real page-turner. Its hard to put down, and meshes the various themes beautifully. Like most good books it takes a level of concentration andintelligence, plus some imagination. I hope the public has enough of both to appreciate a real gem of a history book. There are three basic themes - the pairing of the submarines, the code-breaking that was so essential to effective sub warfare, and the personal ties between submariners, even, in this case, between naval neighbors, much to the disadvantage of Cromwell - the knowledge would kill him. The personal touch - what was it like to face depth charges- makes the book real and the service more than admirable. As a child a knew a fearless diver who couldn't bring himself to go down into a sub in the Chicago River, such is the courage it takes to be a submariner. In the end, the fate of the Sculpin crew is sealed almost as a Greek tragedy. Classic stuff.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x97a0f7e0) out of 5 stars A great read! 19 May 2008
By History Buff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I bought this on impulse, but once I started reading it I got completely sucked in and read the whole book in 2 or 3 sittings. A fascinating tale full of gut-wrenching twists and turns.
The author recounts what it was actually like to serve on a WWII sub in minute detail. It is cleary well-reseached. The descriptions throughout the narrative are oustanding, and the explanations of military terminology and protocol are interesting and easy to understand.
Really an amazing story that is well written- truly a tribute to these incredibly brave men.
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